Is there a difference between aromas and bouquet in wines? Yes, there is. The difference is distinct, but it can be really confusing to differentiate aromas from bouquet. Even the most famed wine critics sometimes confuse these two.
Wine Aromas: General Classification
Wine aromas may be classified into three major categories:
- Primary aromas. They are also known as varietal aromas. These aromas come from or are determined by the type of grapes (grape varietals) used in wine making.
- Secondary aromas. These are also known as vinous aromas. These aromas develop during the pre-fermentation and fermentation process.
- Tertiary aromas: These aromas are developed during the post-fermentation process. They develop when wine is being matured in the wine barrel (e.g. oak barrel) or being aged in the wine bottle (bottle aging).
Aromas versus Bouquet
To be precise, when a wine specialist talks about a wine’s aromas, he is referring to that wine’s primary and secondary aromas (i.e. varietal aromas and vinous aromas). When he talks about a wine’s bouquet, he is referring to that wine’s tertiary aromas.
To put it even more simply, while it is true that there are three main aromas in wines, only the primary and secondary aromas qualify as “aromas” in wine lingo; the tertiary aroma is referred to as “bouquet.” That, in a nutshell is the difference between aromas and bouquet.
Wines owe their bouquet to the post-fermentation and the maturing process. The bouquet is developed only during the post-fermentation stage and in the wine bottle itself. Aldehydes and esters are formed during the oxidation of the fruit acids and alcohol in the wine bottle. As such, bouquet takes time – years, actually – to develop.
A good, mature wine will have a complex bouquet. After all, a wine’s bouquet is a combination of aromas bundled together to form new aromas (you could call it perfume, if you want).
I have here a list of the common tertiary aromas found in wines. Again, I would like to emphasize that these aromas qualify as bouquet aromas because they are developed in the post-fermentation and aging process:
- roasted almond
- roasted hazelnut
- dark chocolate
For more information about wine aromas, please see the works of Jean Lenoir and his must-have, world-renowned Le Nez du Vin kits.
Final Note on Aromas and Bouquet
A diligent wine critic will usually not use the word bouquet to describe the aromas found in young immature wines, unless he is describing wines of such exceptional vintage that they are already starting to show, albeit prematurely, their bouquet.
Cheers!*Aromas that are usually developed when wine is aged in new oak barrels prior to bottling